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Tuesday, 18 March 1980
Page: 764

Senator PUPLICK (New South Wales) - I wish to raise in the adjournment debate a matter involving an Australian citizen of Vietnamese origin. Because this matter is still the subject of negotiations between the Australian Government and the Government of Vietnam, I will refer to this constituent simply as Mr D. He is in every way, I think, a model Australian citizen. In January 1974 he arrived in Australia from Vietnam as a Colombo Plan student. He took up a position studying at the University of New.castle in New South Wales. In February 1 975 he returned to what was then known as Saigon to spend four weeks with his family. Having completed that period there he returned to Australia to continue his studies at Newcastle.

In May 1 975 he sought permission for his wife and children to join him in Australia. This was agreed to by the Australian Government, and letters of authority were issued for the wife and children to travel to Australia. However, it was not possible for any action to be taken to give effect to those letters of authority before the closure of the Australian Embassy in Saigon, which took place in the middle of 1975. By the time things had settled down somewhat, in late 1977, Mr D. then found that the Australian Government's policy had changed and so that the letters of authority were no longer being used and appeared to be no longer regarded as valid. He was therefore in the position that it appeared to him that the permission that had been granted by the Australian Government to his wife and children to join him in Australia could no longer be given effect to. Since that date he has sought to get permission for his wife and children to join him in Australia.

I do not dispute the difficulties that are involved in this case, but two things have arisen since that date. The first is that on 21 May 1979 Mr D. became an Australian citizen. The second is that his case was taken up, and taken up with a great deal of vigour,; rjy the department of education at the- University of Newcastle. He has received enormous support from members of that faculty- from the dean, Professor Laura, from the professor of education, Professor J. B. Biggs, and from twoXenipr academics, Dr J. M. Wood and-feefessQr -Theodore MacDonald. In fact, Professor MacFjQajald visited Ho Chi Minh City in January. 'o£ftu1ryear. While he was there he spoke to officiais"o£pe;Vietnamese Government about this case", "The Vietnamese Government officials.indkated some willingness to allow Mr D's family-jso-come to Australia provided that the Austrairafl^^r^Vernment indicated again clearly that it Was^j$rer>ar.ed to receive Mr D's family as welcome^|>e>m;anent residents in Australia. .v\ C"

I have had -the "opportunity of discussing this matter with ihe "Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr Macphee. Mr Macphee has indicated to me that he"k~ prepared to indicate to the Vietnam authorities- .that, notwithstanding the earlier administrative decision not to continue with the practice-of issuing and recognising letters of authority . he-'is prepared in this case to recognise the continuing- validity of those former letters of authority which had previously been issued and whktiT understand apply not only to Mr D. but also^tolatjeast one other Vietnamese family resident- ^r^Australia. Further, Mr Macphee is pr'epare4 trjxqmmunicate this to the Government of -Vietnam- through the appropriate channels, whic£Hiflderstand would be those established within thV Department of Foreign Affairs. To this, .extent, I hope that the Vietnamese authorities' will be prepared to allow Mr D's family to come to Australia to join him, given the fact that the 'Minister, Mr Macphee, is now prepared to indicate that Mr D's family would be welcome as permanent settlers in this country.

However,- 1 wputd. like to pay some tribute to Mr D. for his patience- and willingness to pursue this matter in the proper channels, despite the high personal bpst that Jias been involved to him in so doing. He "was parted from his family but nevertheless was prepared to "make representations and to seek toJiavetfris matter resolved in the proper fashion through the offices of the Government and without resort to many of the other tactics that have been used from time to time. I would like also to pay tribute to the members of the Faculty of Education at the University of Newcastle who have assisted and advised Mr D. in this matter, and to my colleague in Newcastle the honourable Virginia Chadwick who is a member of the New South

Wales Legislative Council, and who has been helping in this case.

I want particularly to draw the attention of new arrivals to Australia to the real value that accrues to them by virtue of their taking steps to become Australian citizens at the earliest possible time. By and large it is because Mr D. has become an Australian citizen that he is now able not only to claim but also to demand action to be taken on his behalf by the Australian Government to bring about his family reunion. The Australian Government has indicated that it is prepared to recognise the continuing validity of the letters of authority previously granted. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, to whom I am also very grateful for his sympathetic consideration of this matter, has indicated that he would be prepared to make the necessary communications to the Government of Vietnam so that that Government will now respond in a sympathetic fashion to the request of Mr D's family that it be allowed to leave Vietnam and to join him in Australia.

I believe that lessons can be learned from this particular case. Firstly, regardless of past history between the two countries it is still possible for family reunions to take place involving persons who were formerly residents of Vietnam. Secondly, they and all others who are interested in the difficulties of family reunion should be encouraged to work through the channels that exist and through their local members of Parliament on both sides of the chamber. Thirdly, the value which is to be accorded to the decision made by new arrivals in Australia to avail themselves of the opportunity to become Australian citizens at the earliest possible stage is something that should not be overlooked.

I hope that, given the decision and the support which will be now given to Mr D 's application by the Australian Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, we will be able to sort out this matter in a satisfactory fashion with the authorities in Vietnam, and that we will be able to add to Mr D. the other members of his family and so have yet another great addition to the Australian community and to the working life and community of the city of Newcastle.

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